International Updates

  • Court permission no longer required for gender transition hormone therapy in Australia

    An Australian Family Court has held that teenagers no longer require the authorisation of the court to undergo stage 2 of hormone therapy, which is irreversible in nature, for gender dysphoria. In earlier cases, Australian courts had held that since the treatment was irreversible, it was necessary for the Court to assess the ability of the minor to consent to the treatment, and therefore, parental consent was not sufficient. However, opposition against this requirement had been building, not only because of the costs of and delay caused by the process, but also because it was considered intrusive and insensitive.

    Re: Kelvin [2017] FamCAFC 258


  • German courts mandates introduction of third gender category in public documents

    The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany has held that the civil status law, which does not provide a third gender category for registration, is violative of the right to privacy, and thus incompatible with the constitution. The Court has directed the legislature to within a year, create a new regulation to provide for registration of one’s gender in the third category, or do away with public documents altogether. In 2013, Germany became the first European country to allow the registration of newborns as neither male nor female. This ruling will take the initiative for legal recognition of trans persons further by allowing for the creation of a third category of gender in legal documents.

    1 BvR 2019/16


  • UK Court of Appeal quashes order denying parental rights to transwoman

    The Court of Appeal reversed a High Court judgement which prevented a transgender father, belonging to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, from having direct contact with her five children. The tight-knit Haredi community in Manchester had threatened to ostracise her family if they had any contact with her once it was found she was living as a woman. The judges of the Court of Appeal overturned the “stark, deeply saddening and extremely disturbing” judgement of the High Court and ordered the issues to be reconsidered by another High Court judge.


  • Hungarian Ombuds finds rejection of lesbian woman’s application to adopt unlawful

    A report by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has found that the decision of Hungarian authorities to reject the adoption application of a same-sex couple amounted to unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation. The two women’s application to adopt a 16-month-old Roma girl was rejected on the grounds that it would infringe upon the child’s right to protection and care.

    Hungary introduced recognition for same-sex couples in 1996 in the form of cohabitation, and since then has granted many rights that are available to heterosexual couples. Notable exceptions are parenting right’s such as access to assisted reproduction, second parent adoption, and joint adoption.


  • Austrian Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage

    Although civil partnerships have been allowed since 2010, the Constitutional Court of Austria termed the law barring same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Same-sex marriage is likely to be legal from January 1, 2019. The ruling also allowed the couples involved in the challenge considered by the Court to marry immediately. The Court observed that “the distinction between marriage and civil partnership can no longer be maintained today without discriminating against same-sex couples”, and that allowing the two institutions to be separate implies an inherent inequality. Civil partnerships will, however, still be available and will soon be an option for heterosexual couples too.


  • European Parliament passes resolution on combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU

    The European Parliament, by 580 votes to 10 and with 27 abstentions, adopted a resolution on combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU. The Parliament condemned all forms of sexual violence and harassment, whether it be physical or psychological, and noting the fact that these acts are too easily tolerated. The Parliament also asked the Commission to submit a proposal for a directive against gender-based violence as well as a comprehensive EU strategy to resist the same. It highlighted the relevance of dedicated training and awareness-raising campaigns regarding existing formal protocol on reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, along with establishing procedures of accountability and active engagement of men for the purpose of prevention in response to the underreporting of sexual harassment.

    Further, sexual harassment within the Parliament itself was explored, by installing specific structures and internal rules to address the issue, including advisory committees that will handle complaints from both members and staff. Member States too were advised to evaluate the matter of sexual harassment in their own national parliaments.


  • President of Tanzania calls for arrest of pregnant schoolgirls

    Civil rights activists in Tanzania accused the government of “promoting a culture of human rights violations” after the President pardoned two men who had convicted for raping ten primary school children aged between six and eight years of age, along with thousands of other prisoners. The news of their release coincided with calls for the arrest of pregnant schoolgirls with the regional commissioner justifying the step as it will force the girls to testify against those who impregnated them. The president had earlier called for pregnant girls to be banned from schools.


  • ECOWAS court passes first judgment on the Maputo Protocol in the Case of 4 Women vs. Nigeria

    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court passed the first judgement in the case of four women who were abducted and assaulted sexually, physically, verbally and unlawfully detained at different times between January 2011 and March 2013 at the hands of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and other government agencies, such as the police and the military. They were arrested and accused of being prostitutes simply on the grounds that they were found on the streets at night. The Court held that these arrests to be unlawful and in violation of the freedom of liberty, noting that branding women as prostitutes constituted verbal abuse and violated their right to dignity. The Court found that there were multiple violations of articles of regional and international treaty law – the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture (CAT); and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This is the first time an international court has pronounced on violations of the Maputo Protocol.


  • Mauritania releases new ‘apostasy’ draft law

    Mauritania has proposed a new ‘Apostasy’ draft law that would make death penalty mandatory for the crime of “insulting” or “mocking” God, the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad. The approved draft legislation would eliminate the possibility under the current law, of substituting a prison term for death penalty if the offender repents promptly. Mauritania’s current penal code, in article 306, imposes the death penalty for apostasy but allows for a lighter penalty if the defendant repents. Mauritania has moved to strengthen a law criminalising apostasy and blasphemy, after a court in the West African nation ordered the release of a local blogger who faced the death penalty for allegedly criticising the Prophet Muhammad. An amendment to Article 306 of the country’s penal code will now see the death penalty applied to “every Muslim, man or woman, who ridicules or insults Allah”, his messenger, his teachings, or any of his prophets, “even if [the accused] repents”. Showing repentance will no longer prevent the death penalty from being applied for blasphemy and apostasy.


  • Egyptian parliament amends inheritance laws

    The Egyptian Parliament has passed a law guaranteeing women’s right to inheritance after over a year’s process on amending the 1943 inheritance law. Egyptian women for the longest time have been deprived of the right to inheritance due to patriarchal cultural norms and traditions, especially in the Upper Egypt region. Article 49 of the new law states that anyone who deliberately denies the heir, be it a man or a woman, their legal share of the inheritance or confiscates a document confirming this share, shall be jailed for six months at least and be subject to a fine. This step does not change the conception or application of the inheritance laws, but increases penalty for preventing inheritance to ensure enforcement. A majority of women in Upper Egypt and rural areas are denied this right despite their legal entitlement to inheritance.